This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. Please help improve it by removing promotional content and inappropriate external links, and by adding encyclopedic content written from a neutral point of view. (June 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this message) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "The Smoking Gun" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this message) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
The Smoking Gun
Available inEnglish
OwnerWilliam Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, and Joseph Jesselli
(TSG Industries Inc.)
Created byWilliam Bastone, Barbara Glauber, and Daniel Green
LaunchedFebruary 13, 1997; 27 years ago (1997-02-13)[1]
Current statusactive

The Smoking Gun is a website that posts legal documents, arrest records, and police mugshots on a daily basis. The intent is to bring to the public light information that is somewhat obscure or unreported by more mainstream media sources. Most of the site's content revolves around historical and current events, although it also features documents and photos relating to out-of-the-ordinary crimes and people.


The website was founded in 1997, by William Bastone; his wife, Barbara Glauber, a graphic designer; and Daniel Green, a freelance journalist, formerly of The Village Voice, and the son of Stephen L. Green. Most of The Smoking Gun's content is obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and from public records such as court documents. The site has used those requests to assemble a collection of mugshots of current and historical celebrities.[2]

The cable network truTV, formerly Court TV, purchased The Smoking Gun, as well as the website Crime Library, in 2000.[3] A series of the same name premiered on Court TV in 2005, which featured some of the site's stories and assorted sketch humor, using string puppets. This series was later moved and shown on Adult Swim.[4]

The site published its second book, The Dog Dialed 911: A Book of Lists from The Smoking Gun, in October 2006.

From March 2008 until January 2011, on truTV, The Smoking Gun sponsored a cable television series called The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest.... The series was originally known as World's Dumbest Criminals, but was re-titled World's Dumbest... and began covering other topics. William was a cast member on the show alongside Smoking Gun writer Andrew Goldberg. They left the show after season 1. As of January 2011, the program was re-titled again to truTV Presents: World's Dumbest...

In June 2014, The Smoking Gun was sold back to William Bastone.[5]


The Smoking Gun began to conduct investigations of criminal activity and publicize its results.[6] In August 2009, the site outed members of Pranknet, a virtual community notorious for tricking hotel and fast-food restaurant employees into setting off fire alarms, engaging fire-suppression systems, and engaging in humiliating acts. The group, whose members include two convicted child molestors,[7][8] also engaged in threatening telephone harassment, placing fake Craigslist ads and shouting racial epithets and obscenities at people responding to them. The group members responded to Craigslist ads placed by young mothers selling household goods, and after gaining the seller's address in an exchange, members would threaten the seller, saying that they would go to their house to rape them and murder their children.[9]

In 2006, the site uncovered widespread fabrication in James Frey's alleged memoir A Million Little Pieces. This investigation led to a public rebuke of Frey by talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who had previously endorsed Frey's book as part of her Oprah's Book Club. Frey's book, describing his alleged years of drug and alcohol abuse and subsequent recovery, contained a number of descriptions of criminal or otherwise outrageous incidents.[10]

In 2010, the site revealed financial irregularities in Yéle Haiti, a charitable foundation set up by rapper Wyclef Jean, soon after he publicized its successful fundraising for disaster relief following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As reported by The New York Times, the foundation had failed to file several years of tax returns. Later it was found to have illegally diverted funds to the personal use of Jean and some of his family.[11] In 2019 Jean admitted irregularities at the charity.[12]


  1. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  2. ^ "Mug Shots | The Smoking Gun". June 12, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  3. ^ "Backgrounder: William Bastone". NYU Journalism Bullpen. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  4. ^ Smoking Gun TV (TV Series 2005– ) - IMDb, retrieved January 10, 2022
  5. ^ "Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss: A Note From TSG World Headquarters". The Smoking Gun. June 24, 2014.
  6. ^ Anderson, Nate (August 7, 2009). "The Smoking Gun exposes PrankNet as Internet badboys cower". Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  7. ^ Time Waster (August 6, 2009). "Another Pranknet Child Molester". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  8. ^ "Diboll woman says allegations against Markle are not shocking". August 8, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  9. ^ Telephone Terrorist, The Smoking Gun, August 3, 2009
  10. ^ "A Million Little Lies", The Smoking Gun, January 4, 2006
  11. ^ Sontag, Deborah (October 11, 2012). "In Haiti, Little Can Be Found of a Hip-Hop Artists Charity". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Wyclef Jean admits his Haiti charity 'made mistakes'". the Guardian. January 19, 2010. Retrieved August 2, 2022.